Digital Dermatitis Control Starts with Heifers

By Dale Baker and Chip Hendrickson
AgroChem Hoof Care Technical Experts

dairy cow hoof healthSpring time means freshening heifers for many dairy producers. New cows in the milking herd bring increased milk production and perhaps a few other things, like digital dermatitis.

To control the spread of digital dermatitis, studies have suggested that treatment of the disease must start with heifers.

“Digital dermatitis control must start during the heifer-rearing period,” says Dr. Nigel Cook of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who co-authored a recent study that looked at the progression of digital dermatitis in a dairy herd over 5 years. The results suggested that prompt topical treatment throughout the life cycle of a cow can help control digital dermatitis.

Also called hairy heel warts, digital dermatitis is an infectious disease that can lead to lameness in dairy cows. The disease can be managed through copper or zinc sulfate footbaths or topical treatments. Afflicted cows will have reddened and painful wart-like areas on their hooves.

“If your lactating herd has digital dermatitis and there is no dry cow or pre-lactating heifer preventative footbath program, you will always be taking two steps forward and three steps back,” says Jamie Sullivan in a recent article published in Progressive Dairyman.

Sullivan calls digital dermatitis “mastitis of the foot,” and suggests handling it the same way that mastitis is treated. “If a cow has mastitis, would you just dip her teats more?” she asks, “No. Apply the same concept for footbaths and digital dermatitis.”

Footbath products like HoofMax can cut the cost of a footbath program by using up to 80% less copper sulfate. HealMax Footbath Concentrate delivers results without the use of formaldehyde, and is ideal for whole-herd application HealMax Spray can be applied in the milking parlor as needed, and HealMax Foam is ideal for whole-herd application.

For more information about footbathing your heifers, talk to your hoof trimmer or veterinarian.

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